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SINGAPORE: A Singapore-based company is at the heart of a massive security operation to keep fans and players safe at the ongoing Qatar World Cup.

Certis Group is lending its expertise at the tournament, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time.

The month-long sporting event, which was shrouded in controversy in its lead-up, kicked off on Sunday (Nov 20) with hosts Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening match.

Certis Group has partnered with local company Group Security System, and will deploy about 3,500 security personnel for the tournament, which over the next month is expected to see around 1.2 million fans descend on the kingdom.

With such large crowds expected, the security efforts will focus on preventing all forms of potential trouble, as matches take place at eight venues across the country.

This comes after recent crowd incidents, such as the crowd crush tragedy in Itaewon, South Korea and the stadium disaster in East Java, Indonesia.

The Itaewon tragedy took the lives of 156 Halloween revellers after people flooded the narrow alleyways of the packed nightlife district, while about 130 football fans died in a stampede in a stadium in Malang, in one of the world’s deadliest sporting stadium disasters.

People placing flowers near the site of the Itaewon tragedy in tribute to victims. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The security officers are a common sight in World Cup venues across Qatar, patrolling at spots such as public areas and places of accommodation.


The security organisation has a broad range of responsibilities for the tournament, explained Group Security System Certis International managing director Luis Phay, including providing cover for the pitches where teams train, at the guests’ accommodations, and also at the airport where fans and players arrive in Qatar.

“We know football can be emotionally charged, right? When people come together, while we enjoy the sport of football, there is also reason for conflict when teams are beaten, teams won,” he noted.

“So in that sense, we see this as one area where we can make a difference, where we provide the necessary risk management so that we can manage such crises more proactively rather than reactively.”

Mr Ignacio Raul Bertoia, chief guard of Group Security System Certis International, said they are expecting security breach attempts, such as overzealous fans invading the pitch.

“Our job is to try to read this before it happens,” he said. “There are certain kinds of behaviours among people in the crowd that, if you’re well-prepared and you are doing the things properly, you can anticipate that kind of threat.”

Training facilities are also an area to guard, given that passionate fans may gather there to try and catch a glimpse of their favourite football stars.

Spanish players training ahead of their first match in this World Cup. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Security is not taking any chances, with barricades set up to prevent overeager fans from disrupting training sessions and about a hundred officers deployed on site.

For example, outside the training venue of Spain – whose squad comprises players such as Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets – fans are corralled about 50m away from the entrance.

Mr Bertoia said it is crucial to have “a really good team” that can communicate and work well together to perform their duties.

“We are people from different countries, different languages, different cultures, and so that’s one of my objectives,” said Mr Bertoia, who leads a team of about 100 officers.


The large-scale security operation also harnesses the power of technology to improve efficiency.

A digital system called Optimax tracks the movement and duties of the thousands of guards deployed on the ground, and the control centre can communicate with all the officers with just the click of a button.

Group Security System Certis International’s director of operations Muhmmad Zahed said: “You have thousands of staff scattered throughout the country to understand the heat of the situation. Such things will be critical to how you respond.”

“Responding wrongly or incorrectly or inappropriately would mean that you’re wasting resources in the wrong area. So that’s why situational awareness is very important for such a large-scale dispersed operation.”

Technology is used to track the movement and duties of the thousands of guards deployed on the ground.

Certis Group has been working closely with its Qatari partners, who in turn welcome fresh ideas from the Singapore-based firm in raising the security standards in the Middle Eastern country.

Group Security Systems Certis International’s chairman Mohd Salem S B Al-Muhannadi said the firm has done “a lot for Qatar” in the security aspect.

“In the field of security, we try to improve our service to reach the target of the country because the target of the country is to be number one, so really Certis is helping in this field,” he said.